Sheppard, Media Vita (inter alia),
(released on February 9, 2010)
Harmonia Mundi HMU 807509
Selected works by John Sheppard
Although two competing collected works editions were published, Stile Antico has instead prepared its own performing editions. The overall sound is in keeping with the group's recordings so far, impeccable intonation (startling in the many cross-relations) and blend (the tendency of a bass or two to growl at the bottom of large textures less noticeable here) and especially a clarity of the soprano lines, which are often suspended far above the more densely packed lower lines. The plainchant, remaining more commonly in alternatim arrangement with polyphonic sections in the Sarum use, is performed with somewhat greater vitality in this disc (better in Gaude gaude gaude Maria than in the somewhat overly solemn Te Deum). For Lenten listening one could hardly do better than Sheppard's monumental but austere setting of the Lenten antiphon Media vita (also found in the Office for the Dead, not least in the English translation of the Book of Common Prayer), an immense, complex polyphonic wrapping for the simple chanting of the Nunc dimittis (the three verses, unusual for an antiphon, found here in the version associated only with Sarum books).